Like many, I’ve been watching It’s A Sin, a five-part masterpiece of a series that has taken the world by storm. Created by Russell T Davies, it is set in the 1980s and follows a group of friends who are growing up in the shadow of the AIDS crisis.
Since it’s release at the end of January 2021 (which coincided with National HIV Testing Week), It’s A Sin has become Channel 4’s most-watched series in history, and its relevance today is alarming.
How many of you can hold your hand up and say you were taught about HIV/AIDS growing up? Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the majority of us know little about this history other than a vague narrative which has been passed down to us through the older generation.
Despite the loud chaos AIDS brought, It’s A Sin reminds us of the silence that it was met with. This series brings to life the heartbreaking, deep-rooted reality that so many people faced, but unlike other series, it’s not an attempt to moralise the topic, but instead show us how it was a virus convoluted with injustice, prejudice, and fallacy.
Through the retelling of LGBTQ+ history in this series, it illustrates the number of lives AIDS stole from a generation. We watch as Ritchie, Roscoe, Colin, Ash, and Jill become immersed with their new lives in London living in the “Pink Palace”. The raring naivety, yet bravery, that shines through in the young characters is what will grip you. Ritchie, a proud Tory despite the party being lead by a woman who literally criminalises the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality with Section 28; Roscoe running away with no plan in a mini-skirt and crop top from a religious family; Colin, a shy, sweet, and naive lad who comes from Wales and moves in with the group knowing little about them; and Ash, who finds work as a teacher but has to hide part of who he is as discussing his own life with students and staff would be illegal.
We get a glimpse into the parties, the thrill of meeting like-minded people, and the unfamiliar openness of those around them. Together they endure the horror of the crisis, the pain of loss, and the prejudices that gay men faced throughout the decade. We watch each character become confident in themselves and unapologetic for who they are – but we also watch as HIV/AIDS slowly creeps into their lives claiming those they love.
Each episode is a poignant reminder of what thousands of gay men went through when the world was confronted with a new deadly virus. And although since the ‘80s we have progressed from the toxic masculinity, homophobia, and gender norms in some ways, there is still so much we can learn. It’s A Sin really opens our eyes to that and allows for reflection on the dangers of misinformation and how vital it is to support others and to create an inclusive world.
We must all come together to continue fighting for equality around the world, as let’s not forget that there are still countries where people can be sent to prison for life or stoned to death for being gay.
It’s A Sin is something quite extraordinary. It’s been the best five hours I’ve spent watching something in years – I’ve even had it on repeat since. The narrative is undeniably heartbreaking, but also hugely informative. It gets the big, emotional moments and moral arguments right.
With the educational storyline and the underpinning themes of humanity, kindness, friendship and love, it is something I believe every adult needs to watch. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but most importantly, you’ll learn something – and hopefully that will entice you to learn more about, support, and actively ally with the LGBTQ+ community.
[Lead images: Channel 4]